In the context of adapting to climate change, energy and energy supply is divided into the following sub-areas:
Energy independence, safety and supply security
Energy security, security of supply and energy reliability are not vulnerable to the expected climate change up to 2100. Energy security and security of supply depend foremost on availability of domestic energy ressources and on sufficiency of energy production capacities US EPA lists major risks of climate change related to the change of demand patterns (in winter demand reduces due to the increase of average temperature and in supper demand is increasing due to higher energy demand for cooling). One of the major risks determined is water scarsity both for cooling the power plants and for mining and production of the fuels. Global sea-level rise is also considered as major climate change threat as most of global fuels are supplied using sea transport. None of above listed risks are occuring in Estonia in the magnitude and direction to have any impact to Estonian energy security, security of supply and energy reliability. From the climate risks foreseen untill 2100 is increased number of extreme weather events which can cause power cuts and disturbances of electricity distribution system.
Energy resources are in rather limited extent impacted by the expected climate change until 2100. At the time of compiling the current report oil shale had the highest share in the primary energy usage among the energy resources of Estonia. Contrary to that, the countrie’s renewable resources, like solar- and windenergy, have the highest usage potential. It was found that the changing climate will have positive as well as negative influences on the Estonian energy resources during the evaluation periood until 2100. In general the impact of climate change on the renewable resources is greater, than on fossil energy resources. This is due to the fact that the energy density of renewable resources is lower than that of the fossil fuels. Therefore these resources have to be gathered from a wider area and the impacts of climate change vary more even within one resource.
The renewable energy targets and trends lead to a bigger share of renewable energy in the overall energy portfolio. Concurrently to that also the vulnerability of energy resources will increase, since climate change has a bigger impact on renewable energy resoruces.
The appropriate timing, equipment and infrastructure is crucial to increase the resilience to those impacts of the changing climate, this applies not only to renewable resources but also the harvesting of some fossil resources like peat. After the harvesting, the impact continues during the storage period, fuels that are stored unsheltered, generally lose in quality. The negative impact on fuel storage will increase during the evaluated period until 2100, because precipitation will increase and average temperatures will rise as well, which leads to higher moisture contents and faster decay.
Implementing energy efficiency
Energy efficiency will mostly be affected by more frequent extreme weather events (heavy wind and rain, thunderstorm, heat and cold waves), increase of air temperature, precipitation and average wind speed as well as by shorter snow cover duration. Along with climate change, various megatrends such as decreasing and ageing of population, urbanisation, technology development and changing consumption habits as well as rising fossil fuel prices will also have an impact on energy efficiency.
Energy end-use efficiency will likely be affected by higher air temperature which in winter will reduce heating demand in the residential and services sector, but in summer it will increase cooling needs. Increasing precipitation and average wind speed, along with bigger dwelling surface per capita, may rise the heating demand in warm seasons. In the transport sector, higher air temperature is also projected to have a positive effect on fuel efficiency. This increase in efficiency will be offset by more ice on roads, anti-slip measures, stronger winds and the use of air conditioners in vehicles which will increase the fuel consumption. Furthermore, shorter snow season and less ice on sea may entail transport growth in winter. In agriculture, the increase of annual precipitation will likely reduce the energy consumption required for irrigation. Periodically, however, the irrigation need may increase due to more frequent heat waves and spring droughts as a result of less snow in winter. The increase in energy use will also be driven by consumers′ demand for vegetables and berries grown all year round in greenhouses.
In energy production and transmission, efficiency will be the most significantly affected by the increase of ambient air temperature which will decrease the effectiveness of cooling systems in fossil-fuels-based power plants. The climate change impact on renewable energy sources (wind, solar, hydro-energy) is projected to be smaller. Some positive changes may arise from the shorter snow season for the efficiency of solar panels and collectors while the increase in air temperature and cloudiness may reduce the efficiency. The increase of average wind speed will be favourable for the wind energy efficiency, but more frequent storms and ice on wind turbines would have an opposite effect. The efficiency of heat pumps will be positively affected by higher air temperature in winter and more precipitation; less snow cover in winter may decrease the efficiency of geothermal heat pumps.
Heat production and cooling
Heat consumption for heating (and hence production) and the need for cooling depend directly on the weather conditions on particular latitude. This sector is mostly affected by the ambient air temperature, but wind speed, solar radiation intensity and air humidity are also important factors. The lower the ambient air temperature, the higher the need to heat the indoor facilities in order to ensure desirable room temperatures. Higher wind speeds and higher air humidity further increase the heat consumption. In Estonia, the question of indoor space heating is more important than cooling which so far has received less attention. Increased rainfall may cause more flooding, which in turn can be associated with basement flooding of buildings and could therefore damage the automation of heat supply stations. Higher groundwater levels and increased soil moisture result in higher heat loss, especially in old non-insulated heat pipes, because the thermal conductivity of the soil increases. This effect is relatively small in case of modern pre-insulated pipes. Due to shortened heating period, the losses in heat transmission will increase, which will be used to heat the domestic hot water during periods when heating is not necessary.
Restructuring of heat production and consumption has been held due to the restructuring of the economy and the housing, as well as due to demographic changes (urbanization). The effects of climate factors on the cause of these changes are non-existent. However, district heating is more sensitive to climate changes than the block heating since climate change can result in decrease in the consumption of heat which in turn can make the management of district heating networks economically inexpedient. Historically, long lasting high air temperatures have occurred rather rarely in Estonia. Maximum ambient air temperature of +30 °C and higher, during five or more days, has been considered to be hazardous to human health. Such a situation has occurred only three times in the period between the years of 1961–2010. During periods of high air temperatures, the most commonly used premises are cooled with open windows in the evenings and at night, to draw out the heat that has accumulated in the building during the day. At noon, when the daily air temperature is typically the highest, the windows are kept closed. What helps to align the temperature are also massive peripheral structures of buildings. In Estonia, local electric cooling equipments are used – fans, air conditioners and heat pumps. With the rise of the average air temperature, their usage increases. It is expected that in the future, the passive engineering techniques will be used for cooling of the buildings, similarly to those that are today used in the Mediterranean countries: screens and shields on the windows, ventilation gaps in the walls and anything alike.
Estonia is one of the world’s largest producers of oil shale, and the majority, nearly 85.8% of the local electricity production, is based on that. In electricity production, the traditional dust burning method is relinquishing it’s priority status to production of oil, which byproducts can significantly increase the total utilization of oil shale energy-chain efficiency. In electricity production and supply, the changing climate conditions have dual effect. On one hand, the decreasing temperatures of winter months lessen the need for additional power consumption needed for heating of buildings. On the other hand, increasing summer temperatures increase the need for cooling of buildings, and thus increase in power consumption during summer months will occur. Conversely, the colder it is during autumn, winter and spring, the more electricity is produced. Also the amount of rainfall affect the production of electricity – the more it rains, the more water is needed to be pumped out of mines. The drier and hotter the summer, the more cooling water is consumed by the power stations, but there is a risk of lack of cooling water. Dry and hot weather can cause self-ignition of oil shale storage. Climate warming leads to more frequent thunderstorms, which can cause some failures in the proper functioning of the substations and worsen the electricity supply, which in turn paralyzes the economic sectors, and can led to reduction in consumption, and so on. Climate change adaptation measures have been implemented and are applied in the production, design and location of electrical equipments. This for instance means that the power plants have been already constructed so that the wind can not affect the electricity production and operation equipment. Modern production equipment and units operate normally smoothly because the seasonal changes in climatic factors have already been taken into account within their design phase. The amount of renewable energy sources are growing rapidly year by year, reaching up to 12.4% out of all the electricity production in 2013. The biggest affect caused by climatic factors in terms of renewable energy production, is the effect of wind speed on the production of wind turbines, and the effect of rainfall on the production capacity of the hydroenergy plants.